This time our travel break in Europe lasted four months. We had enough time to digest our travel impressions from the previous stage, recharge our adventure batteries and of course see friends and family. However, the US immigration officer does not make it easy for us to enter the country this time. After he got an idea of our rather unusual long-term travel situation with our own vehicle imported from Germany (we did not want to lie and tell him a standard tourist story either), he starts digging really deep: extracts from the commercial register of my German company as well as corresponding bank statements, which document that we should be able to afford our stay in the U.S.A. financially, eventually satisfy him.
As always, we are incredibly relieved to see Shujaa safe and sound at our storage space on the east side of San Francisco Bay. One would think that this topic would become more relaxed over time… but far from it… Shujaa, our baby, our everything! Due to the jet lag with a nine-hour time difference, we are of course not tired at all and start to put away all the things we have brought with us and get Shujaa ready to go. After the obligatory grocery shopping (inflation in food prices in the U.S.A. is even more extreme than in Europe), we head to the Golden Gate Bridge. Four months ago, when we left San Francisco, there was torrential flooding, but now and for the next few weeks the most glorious sun is shining. Even the omnipresent fog clears as we walk under the Golden Gate Bridge and visit Alcatraz and downtown.
We’re known to love wine regions, so a stop in nearby Napa and Sonoma Valley is a must for us. We can spend two nights directly on a small winery on the edge of the vineyard and also get several bottles of wine for free! That’s how we like it! We also enjoy the various culinary temptations in the valley: however, the prices for good wines here are beyond good and evil… at least for our almost daily wine consumption.
The well-known Pacific Highway No. 1 also meanders north of San Francisco along rugged coasts to Oregon and Washington…. A scenic spectacle of the extra class, but unfortunately mostly in the fog! Temperatures drop by 10 degrees as you dive into the fog banks from the sunny inland, but we still have some nice walks along the coast.
“Size Matters”: this applies not only to Shujaa, but also to the Redwood trees in Northern California 😉. Several thousand years old, up to six meters in diameter and 150 meters in height, they are a majestic appearance and make us, our world, our problems and even Shujaa seem sooo small. We enjoy our long hikes in this contemplative environment. Because the fog on the coast is a bit depressing in the long run, we skip the planned Oregon Dunes and drive inland to Oregon. Visiting a rodeo in a rural small town is a completely new experience for us and you should definitely try it at least once! Above all, the different disciplines and the American spectacle are just great.
Crater Lake – Oregon’s most famous attraction – is still covered in meters of snow, which makes the unique scenery even more impressive. In the Newberry Volcano area, we also hike in deep snow to a cold lava flow with obsidians… of which Karin is picking up some larger chunks although forbidden 😉.
Up to now we have been accompanied by deep green forests with dense, huge tree populations, but it is getting drier the more we move towards eastern Oregon: The Smith Rock State Park is a big surprise for us with its bizarre, red rock formations (almost like in Utah) and also the Painted Hills are impressive. We cross the mighty Columbia River to Washington via a very, very, very narrow bridge and soon find ourselves back in deep green nature around Mount St. Helens, which had its last eruption in 1980 with numerous fatalities. Unfortunately, many forest roads and the access roads to the lava flow are still closed due to snow… it snowed a lot in the Cascade Mountains this year!
So, we are faster than planned in Seattle, where I went to high school for a year in a suburb some 38 years ago. Unfortunately, I hardly recognize anything there… in contrast to my hometown in Germany where little has changed in this period! Different development speeds on both sides of the Atlantic! Seattle itself is a beautiful and surprisingly quiet city with a fantastic location: nestled between branching inlets of the Pacific Ocean and the extensive Lake Washington with the snow-capped Cascades in the background. The city and its surroundings are extremely prosperous, as successful corporations such as Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks and Boeing have their corporate headquarters here.
We end our stay in the north-west of the U.S.A. on the Olympic Peninsula: dense cold rain forests in this area with the highest rainfall in the U.S.A. again offer great nature… with sunshine inland and fog on the coast.